Bush, Congress in Spy Bill Standoff

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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act allows the U.S. to wiretap the phone calls and e-mails of suspected terrorists. President Bush says America is in greater risk of a terrorist attack without it.

But the law expires Friday night, and the Democrat-led Congress just left for a 12-day recess. Flanked by GOP lawmakers at the White House, President Bush blasted the House's inaction.

"By blocking this piece of legislation, our country is more in danger of an attack," he said. "By not giving the professionals the tools they need, it's going to be a lot harder to do the job we need to be able to defend America."

On the flip side, the president praised the Senate for passing a bi-partisan bill that would renew FISA. He wants the House to pass that version of the bill as well.

House Democrats recommend a 30-day extension of the current law. That would give them time to get on the same page as the senate before passing a final bill.

House Republicans staged a walkout on Thursday in protest.

But Democrats say the president is trying to push the bill through now for political purposes.

"While FDR is famous for telling Americans they have nothing to fear but fear itself, President Bush tells the American people he has nothing to offer but fear," said Speaker of the House, Nanci Pelosi.

One of the major hangups for House Democrats is that the Senate bill provides immunity to phone companies that work with the government on the wiretapping program. House Democrats say those companies should be subject to lawsuits. Republicans disagree.

Without these communications companies volunteering to help us, there is no program. And we have put them in a position--not we, but I mean the lawsuits--have put them in the position that they cannot continue to do that," said Kentucky Rep. Mitch McConnell.

Democrats say existing laws--which require the government to obtain a court order before wiretapping a suspect--are good enough. But President Bush says House Democrats should act quickly to get a new bill passed when they return from their break.

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Erick Stakelbeck

Erick Stakelbeck

CBN News

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